Momma Knows: Maximum Ride, by James Patterson
James Patterson is known for suspenseful page-turners full of daring detectives and dead bodies, but did you know he's writing for kids now? Do not be alarmed! If you want something new and exciting for your middle grade or young adult reader, pick up Maximum Ride, Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports. It's third in the series but you don't need to have read the first two to know what's going on.
I'm not sure if you'd call it fantasy or science fiction. It's about a flock of bird kids - genetically engineered with bird and human DNA - who must escape the clutches of diabolical scientists. It's modern science gone awry and it's full of enough pop culture references to keep kids (and this adult) interested. If you like to read with your kids, this is one that won't leave you yawning mid-chapter.
Patterson is a master of the short chapter and for short attention span folks like children and yours truly, the 2 ½ page chapter is a gift. Plus, he's such a master at pop fiction that you'll be turning those pages to find out what fate holds for the most unfortunate children since the Baudelaire orphans of Lemony Snicket fame. The story will be loved by both boys and girls. The main hero, Max, is a girl, but she fights a lot. Boys like fighting. And she flies. Flying is a major attraction in this story according to my nine-year-old. Fang, the male lead, furthers the boy appeal.
Beware the Sass Mouth
This book is smart to the point of being smart-ass, which I appreciated, but many parents won't. This book can only contribute to an already full inventory of smart remarks and attitude. If kids don't know how to mouth off now, they will be after they read this book. Along with being pretty cynical and sarcastic there are some cultural references that are not appropriate for certain children. When Max finds out her mother is not the maternal figure she'd hoped for she asks, "...couldn't she have been a nice hooker or a crack addict..." I don't know about you, but I'm not sure how I'll answer that little vocab question from my son. Let's just hope he skims that sentence! Another passage describes an unlikely event as having an "anorexically thin chance". And Fang's mother actually was a drug addict. So there's that. It's not for the uptight parent. However, other current references, such as the fact that Fang's blog helps to save the world, are great for engaging our techie kids. We love blogs.
While Max takes center stage as the sarcastic world-done-me-wrong young teen, it's the talking dog Total who steals my heart in the end. In one of the final scenes he is so offended at being treated like a dog, of all things, that he throws the cutest little fit. What can I say, it struck me as hilarious and really wonderful of Patterson to keep the humor pumping all the way through to the end, where books can sometimes get a anti-climactically dull.
Who Will Love It?
Anyone with a love for adventure and science will get into this book. I was surprised at how well the book held my attention. My nine-year-old is not racing through it, but I think he's a bit young for it. I'd say twelve to sixteen would be prime reader ages, but every kid is different. Max is a great role model for leadership under pressure. She holds it together under extreme conditions to keep her flock alive and flapping. A flock of bird-kid orphans and talking animals escaping evil geniuses. What more could you want?
Want to know more? Check the buzz on MaximumRide.com.